When Life Can Not Go On As Normal By Jamie McGhee

When Life Can Not Go On As Normal

Mourning the souls who are still your soul

Yes, Sir, I am calling in sick
because my people are
dying on their knees
with their hands in the air,
praying to a god
who prefers white skin;

and the last time
we went to church,
we found our pastor’s blood
in the communion wine
but unlike God
he did not turn into bread;

and the last time
we dipped our hands in holy water,
an officer shoved us in
and choked us under
until the water turned black;

and the last time
we tried to breathe,
an arm clamped around our neck
and forced us to the ground
so we could hear our lungs explode
in our collapsing chest;

and the last time
we tried to stand up straight,
our spine snapped in two,
and when we tried to run,
our back ate four bullets,
our heart ate one,
and when we asked to be buried
in that same little town,
a pale-skinned terrorist
carried out the will of God;

and maybe, maybe I could
make it to work,
but I’m afraid to leave my house
because corpses hang from every tree:
corpses from a hundred years ago,
corpses from a hundred years from now,
corpses from this morning,
stripped of their names,
swinging in a stale white wind;

and you expect me to act normal,
to smile wide
and assure you that my people
are just exaggerating
about our own bullet wounds,
but even Uncle Tom
died at his master’s feet;

so, Sir, I am incredibly sorry
to inconvenience you,
but my people are dead
and my heart is sick,
and I’ll need a lifetime
just to cut down these trees.

Authors note: Remember to practice lots of self-care, everyone, and to take time to mourn or cry or scream or write or dance or whatever you need to do.  Don’t let anyone tell you how you should feel.

By Jamie McGhee


Jamie McGhee is a queer woman of color, spoken word poet, and student activist at Duke University. She writes regularly at www.OffCenterWriting.com

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